Introduction / History
The Balkar live in the Caucasus Mountains, primarily in southern Kabardino-Balkaria and the surrounding areas. The Balkar are a Turkic people who are ethnically, culturally, and linguistically related to the Karachay. They speak a dialect of Karachay-Balkar, which belongs to the Kypchak division of the Uralo-Altaic language family.
The Balkar were originally part of the Iranian-speaking Alan tribe. In the 1200's, a Mongol invasion forced them into the canyons of the Caucasus Mountains, where they remained until 1944. At that time, they were deported to Central Asia and many Balkar lost their lives. In 1957-58, the Balkar region was re-established and the Balkar returned. Though avalanches and torrential rains are somewhat common in the area, the canyons provide protection from the cold winters and hot summers. Wolves, bears, goats, and some leopards can be seen in this region.
What are their lives like?
The Balkar rely on livestock breeding and farming for their livelihood. Mountain goats, sheep, and cattle are among the animals raised. Meat is an important part of their diet, and they regularly eat beef, mutton, goat, and horse meat.
The Balkar live in villages located on the mountain slopes or in other areas not suitable for farming. Each village has a courtyard and some have Islamic mosques. Medieval towers and fortresses have been preserved and can still be seen in some of the villages. A village is usually made up of one or more clans. Each clan shows great respect for its elders and has its own cemetery.
The Balkar originally lived in homes made of mud and wood. Today, their houses are built with brick or stone and have tile or slate roofs. The homes usually have two stories and most have porches. Some of the Balkar still practice marriage by abduction. In such cases, the groom takes a wife (with or without her consent) and no bride-price is paid.
Virtually all of the Balkar speak both Karachay-Balkar and Russian. Karachay-Balkar is taught in primary schools and Russian is taught in secondary schools. Their proficiency in both languages may help to promote them among the Russian majority. Many outstanding people have already emerged from the Balkar population. A number of Balkar writers, singers, actors, scientists, doctors, and nuclear physicists are well known.
The Balkar have many traditional folk dances that are enjoyed by all. They also play a variety of musical instruments, such as flutes, accordions, violins, and reed instruments.
Modern scientific medicine is advancing in the Balkar region and hospitals have been built in the cities. However, some of the people continue to use magic, divination, and Oriental medicines to heal illnesses, which they believe are caused by evil spirits.
What are their beliefs?
The Balkar are exclusively Muslim, following the teachings of the Koran. Yet, traces of their traditional beliefs can still be seen. For instance, when drought is evident, the villagers say prayers and pour water on each other. Horseshoes are nailed over the doors of their houses for good luck, and horse skulls are thought to protect homes from the "evil eye" (curse caused by an intense gaze). During an eclipse, the Balkar make noises with metal objects so that the "sun monster" will not eat the moon.
The Balkar have several customs surrounding death. Wakes and funeral banquets are held on the seventh and fifty-second day after a person dies. Also, a story about the birth of Mohammed is read each month for the dead.
What are their needs?
The Balkar have the New Testament in their language. These precious people need Christian broadcasts and other resources made available to them. Above all, they need Christians who will intercede to the Father on their behalf.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to thrust forth many missionaries to share Christ with the Balkar.
* Ask the Lord to send loving Russian Christians to minister Life to their Muslim neighbors.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will soften the hearts of governmental leaders toward the Gospel.
* Ask God to call forth teams of intercessors who will rise up and faithfully stand in the gap for the Balkar.
* Pray for the salvation of key Balkar leaders who will boldly proclaim the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise strong local churches among the Karachay.